Legitimacy as Property and Process: The Case of an Irish LGBT Organization

  • Sheila M CannonEmail author
Original Paper


This study provides insight into the changing normative judgements of civil society organizations over time through the concept of legitimacy. A case study of an LGBT organization in Ireland over the past 40 years shows how a process of legitimation took place in five steps: refuge, advocacy, formalization, impact, and organizational survival. The initial stigmatization of the organization’s core purpose created opportunities for social capital to grow, which, ironically, helped to initiate the process of legitimation. In the end, pragmatic legitimacy waned after the organization achieved impact and was successful in its mission. This organizational perspective on civil society and on a history of LGBT rights contributes to understanding the legitimacy of civil society organizations, actors which influence change in normative judgements over time. Treating legitimacy as both a property and a process highlights how these organizations can be simultaneously subjects of normative judgement and also agents of change.


Civil society organization Legitimacy Legitimation LGBT movement Process study 



I would like to thank MBA graduates for their work on this project, in particular, Ashley Robbins and Omar Hadidi. A big debt of gratitude also goes to all of the interview participants who gave their time generously for this research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest. In July 2016 and March 2017 the author coordinated MBA company projects with the LGBT organization that is the subject of this research.


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Copyright information

© International Society for Third-Sector Research and The Johns Hopkins University 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Trinity Business SchoolTrinity College DublinDublinIreland

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